Blake Griffin rebounded the ball, led his own slow transition. The Clippers were recently down as many as 16 points, seeming to have completely imploded, especially after Mo Williams earned himself a double technical. The Clippers couldn’t stop Barea let alone Dirk and the dominating lead that they had created in first quarter appeared nothing more than a vague memory. But after a pair of free throws from Gordon, some defensive stops and a Jamario Moon three, the Clippers found themselves back in the game. The Clippers found themselves with Blake Griffin, their superstar, taking over. As the Mavericks picked Blake up in that slow transition, Blake spun and laid the ball in for a bucket, the lead down to 7. The fans went wild, what seemed like an impossibility as recently as 2 minutes of game time before, now seemed possible.
The Mavericks tried to answer with a Nowitzki short jumper and he missed, which opened up the opportunity for Blake Griffin to bustle in for another layup and bring the Clippers within 5 with 3:19 to play (Griffin finished with 25 points on 10 for 14 shooting, 17 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals).The Clippers, seemingly, could win this. The crowd was in the game, excited to root on the Clippers especially after some calls unpopularly swung to the Mavericks way, and with the Clippers having beat other good teams, the comeback seemed possible.
But then the Mavericks came out of the timeout and that Barea found himself open in the right corner and bombed in a three. The elation in the building quickly fizzled as an 8 point lead with 2:58 took the wind out of the Clipper fans sails. The loss of momentum might have affected Randy Foye, too, as he threw the ball away. Even when Jason Terry missed his jumper for the Mavericks, Eric Gordon lost the ball to Clippers bench nemesis, Jose Barea, and allowed for the him to swoop in for the layup and the ten point lead with 2 minutes remaining.
J.J. Barea played superbly, scoring 22 points on 6 for 8 shooting, and handing out 6 assists, but this wasn’t the first time that Barea crushed the Clippers. In his last appearance against the Clippers, Barea scored 25 points on 9 for 12 shooting, so maybe you could count this as an improvement, but there wasn’t much. I asked Vinny if he had a game plane for Barea.
“Yeah, there was a game plan, but it wasn’t a very good one obviously,” Vinny said. “There’s so much attention to Dirk, so much attention to Jason, then Chandler and Marion on the weakside and if you’re zoning up off them it leaves Barea’s ability. You can’t leave Dirk and then if you switch, Dirk posts up at the free throw line. Then if you go zone, there’s a bunch of shooters out there and they’re attacking off the dribble. They don’t settle. You got Terry and Nowitzki and Kidd. These guys know how to play and make shots. And Barea, his penetration, his quickness, he’s tough. Tough in the open court, sometimes he’s hard to find and even if he didn’t get to the basket, he’s making plays for the shooters. He gives them a totally different dimension.”
I like Barea’s game, but he’s not as good as Vinny was making him out to be. Barea isn’t Deron Williams, he’s not even Mo Williams. What seemed strange was the player on the Clippers most capable to defend Barea, aside from Gordon, sat on the bench for all but two minutes of the game. If there ever was a player built for sneaking through gaps and suffocating Barea, Eric Bledsoe would be that kind of player. He’s young, but Bledsoe has shown the types of strides this season that warrants more than two minutes of play. Even if Barea blew by Bledsoe, it’s not like anyone else was stopping Barea. Even Gordon had his looks, and Barea still refused to slow down.
“I didn’t think [Bledsoe] was into the game,” Del Negro said. “I didn’t think he was guarding. I mean Barea blew by him twice. I think he’s developed tremendously, but tonight wasn’t his night and we had to go a different direction.”
I like that Vinny teaches lessons to the rookies, but wouldn’t a second, closely supervised stint given Bledsoe the feeling that his coach wanted him to succeed?
Regardless, the Clippers still had bigger struggled, notably, their turnovers. After starting out the first quarter so cleanly (one turnover), with such a good turnover differential (+5), they finished the game with 17 turnovers and some huge ones down the stretch. The blame can be shared over a lot of the players, Foye and Gordon had the two killer turnovers at the end, but Blake and Mo also had 4 and 3 a piece. That’s the problem with young teams, they don’t play as smart and cohesively. They allow bench players to go off, they turn the ball over and lose momentum, they get hung up on referees, and tonight the Clippers showed just how young they are. If the Clippers want to progress, and I’m sure they do, they’re going to have to work incredibly hard improving their effort and their focus because they have so much to learn.
-Blake Griffin breaks records. After getting his double double record, Blake overtook Terry Cummings for the most points for a rookie in a season.
- Blake Griffin spins and fakes. Blake showed a more consistently expanded offensive repertoire. The three consecutive spin moves to cut the deficit to 5 were impressive, but Blake also had a couple up-and-unders that allowed him the space from Tyson Chandler.
- Eric Gordon played very poorly tonight. He shot 1 for 9 from the field in the first half and finished with 15 points on 4 for 18 shooting. Obviously, it’s not the touches, as Gordon still gets those, and it could very well be the lingering effects of the wrist injury, however it could be that Mo doesn’t quite know where to get Eric the ball yet.
- The bigs. I thought both centers played well tonight. Kaman played 26 minutes and scored 12 points on 6 for 10 shooting and pulled down 8 rebounds. His highlight play was a slick drive from the high post that resulted in a reverse layup. He didn’t have any blocks, although the foul that he was whistled for on Tyson Chandler probably could have been ruled differently in another game. DeAndre was 4 for 4 from the field, scoring 8 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in 23 minutes. Like Kaman, he had few blocks (only one), but that could also be the style of play for the Mavericks as they are a jump shooting team.
- Randy Foye had two huge blocks on Peja Stojakovic and was effective for the Clips off the bench. He made 2 threes, was on the receiving end of a great pass from Gordon and played small forward for a portion of the game. This was probably one of the stranger developments of the game. With a team as large as the Mavericks, VDN went to Foye on Marion for stretches of the game.
- Mo Williams had a fantastic quarter, when Jason Kidd covered him. He scored 13 points and dished out 3 assists en route to a 28-23 lead over the Mavericks. However, Mo lost his momentum when the Mavs began to hide Kidd on other players, taking away Mo’s severe speed advantage. Mo never recovered, only scoring 5 more points on 1 for 5 shooting and two assists.